We are now in the eighth week of our new education reality and attention is shifting from the immediate responses needed by our schools to the actions that policymakers must take to ensure that we have the resilient education systems needed for learning to continue along the uncertain path ahead.
Three months ago, we launched the 2020 policy goals of our local campaigns. With the needs of students and their families changing so dramatically since then, for the first time in our 10 year history we are revising these goals mid-year to account for the shifting needs of this new reality.
Throughout this crisis, our local teams have been working closely with students, parents and teachers to understand how best to support them in this difficult time. These new goals focus on addressing essential policy questions for the summer and fall: how best to use federal stimulus funds to help all schools make the transition to this new reality, how to ensure families have accurate information on their children’s progress, how to close digital divides and how to stay focused on students’ needs whenever it is safe to return.
Last week we shined a spotlight on how we can reimagine rather than cancel summer programs and the need to ensure every school is a resilient school. This week we kick off a new look at the advocacy campaigns underway in our states with a focus on how we can empower parents with real data and real choices and how we can forge a new educational compact with America’s students.
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Empower Parents with Real Data and Real Choices
Teachers “feel like they were not trained and prepared for the shift,” ConnCAN Executive Director Subira Gordon shared in our latest video interview. “And the parents are telling us that they’re seeing a big breakdown in communication.”
With so many questions about where students actually stand after months of unequally implemented distance learning, Gordon’s greatest concern is that district bureaucracies will fall back on their old habits of keeping parents at arm’s length when it comes to their children’s data. “We think it’s really important here at ConnCAN that families are brought into those conversations and a parent should have the right to say, ‘I think my child should stay back’ or ‘I will help you in a partnership to make sure that they’re staying on track,’” Gordon argues.
In ConnCAN’s updated policy goals for the year, Gordon and her team are focused on investing in assessments of student learning that provide information directly to parents so they are empowered to make informed decisions on behalf of their children, equitable funding for all types of schools so parents can have real choices, and free digital devices that parents control and can put to use for learning inside and outside of school.
- The task this week is to insist that any assessment data goes to families at the same time it goes to schools so that they are empowered with the information they need to be true partners is the key decisions that need to be made on behalf of their kids.
Problem-Solve With Students Rather than For Them
“At a time when students need adults to show up for them and connect with them in greater ways, many of our well-intentioned inclinations miss the mark,” writes DelawareCAN Executive Director Atnre Alleyne in The Grio. “There is empowerment and real education in telling students the truth, being honest about what adults haven’t figured out, and allowing them to participate in problem-solving.”
Learning, by necessity, is now centered more around students than ever before because students and their families are filling in the gaps created by school building closures. Our plans for re-opening schools in the fall should build on this student-centered reality rather than seek to go backwards to a normal that far too often left students’ voices out.
“This is a perfect time to bring students to the table to wrestle with the many hard, logistical and learning decisions that need to be made,” Alleyne argues. “If this is the future we want, we should do something about the wise but sobering words one of my high school mentees once said about how adults ‘engage’ students: ‘We’ve been moved from the kiddie table to the adult table but our portions remain the same.’”
For DelawareCAN, that means new goals for 2020 focused on an education innovation fund that supports new student-centered approaches to summer learning loss, parent empowerment, and school-community partnerships and new support services for undocumented students to be full participants in their education. Across the 50CAN network, local leaders are working to ensure that as new plans are put in place, the voices of students are central to the conversation.
- The task this week is to ensure that the power that has shifted to students and their families in directing their education during this time of crisis is not lost as we turn our attention to the plans for reopening schools in the fall.
“American families have more reason than ever to believe that education is critical to their future prosperity. But necessity must breed invention,” writes CRPE director Robin Lake in The 74 Million. “Every parent will be relieved to have their kids back in school next year. But we have to face reality: Schooling cannot look the same when they return.”
Because necessity is the mother of invention, every campaign in the 50CAN network rethought their policy goals to squarely face this new reality. While each of our campaign’s goals are responsive to the local context and needs within their communities and states, there are clear themes in their responses: ensure federal funding applies equally to all schools, provide parents with clear information on student progress, invest in one-to-one devices for every student, fund innovative approaches to distance learning, and focus additional support on the most vulnerable children.
Learn about all 51 goals across the 50CAN network here.
- The US Department of Education has launched a grant competition to spur stronger systems of distance and virtual learning, with states able to compete for up to $300 million.
- AEI is hosting a webinar today (Monday) at 2:00 pm ET with John Bailey and several co-authors to coincide with the release of their report, “A Blueprint for Back to School.”
- Brown University professor Matthew Kraft explores how we could ensure every struggling student has a tutor to help them catch back up on the Late Bell podcast.
- Kristin Blagg and her colleagues at Urban Institute released a brief that draws upon American Community Survey (ACS) data to highlight different types of challenges to remote learning.
- The Collaborative for Student Success released a new survey that found the majority of teachers hoped to keep business as usual with no major changes to instruction and grade level content.
- Ed Week’s Stephen Sawchuk’s explores the “7 Big Issues for Unions and Districts in Remote Teaching Agreements.”
- The Council of the Great City Schools sent a letter to congressional leaders in Washington with urgent warnings about the fiscal crisis looming before schools and a request for help.
- Andrew Miller writes for Edutopia that summative assessments remain critical for students, and offers tips and resources to transition these assessments to a distance learning environment.
- Emily Richmond writes in The Atlantic on how career and technical education is adapting to the world of distance learning.
- 50CAN’s Jonathan Nikkila and Our Turn Action Network’s Christian Esperias have launched a new webinar series, “Election Essentials,” on political advocacy during Covid-19. The next session is Wednesday at 1:00 pm ET. Register to attend here.
“I alone cannot change the world,” Saint Teresa of Calcutta once observed. “But I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” Over the past two months, the citizen advocates that power ConnCAN’s work for kids in the Constitution State have worked together to create the digital ripples that can drive change even in an era of social distancing. These changemakers, and thousands like them around the country, are committed to working together over the summer to reach the new policies goals for this new reality.